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December 8, 2019 | Doug Sauder
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“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”—Galatians 5:16-18 (NKJV)
Even if you think you know what “walk in the Spirit” means, permit me some leeway because some may not. And I’ll use an analogy that helped me to better understand.
Let’s say you’re walking a dog. The dog is yours; he knows your voice, your commands, and your way. Suddenly, a squirrel appears and EVERYTHING in him wants to chase it, but he doesn’t. He allows you to lead him. Then, a car backfires as it passes, but he doesn’t so much as flinch. He steadily and faithfully walks at your side, even if he is afraid. It begins to rain, but he is energized and wags his tail because you give him security in the storm.
You’re. His. Whole. World.
That’s a picture of a confident dog. He trusts your perception and your guidance; he keeps his eyes focused on wherever you would have him go.
We are like the dog, and the Holy Spirit is our companion. At the moment you accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit begins a remarkable change within you. It’s called sanctification, which is another way of saying He is transforming you into the nature and image of Jesus. To walk in the Spirit means to yield to Him—and despite any distraction—to follow Him. It’s a transference of ownership of our control over to the One who is in control. It’s a walk of faithfulness and trust. It’s being confidently led in the good will of God, secure in His direction—even in the storms.
This walk is a life-long process. Just like a dog will sometimes pull ahead, balk, or even shake off the collar to fulfill his desires, we, too, can be willful. But then something extraordinary happens. Our love for God grows. We no longer want to do our own thing; rather, our whole desire is to please God. When this happens we know we are walking in the Spirit. Make no mistake, it is only God who enables this by giving us a new heart and putting His Spirit within us (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
This is why “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV). We aren’t governed because we have to follow Him, we are willing to be led. John Piper wrote, “When the Spirit is leading us by producing godly desires, then the commands of God are not a burden but a joy.” Amen to that.
DIG: What does “walking in the Spirit” mean?
DISCOVER: What does it mean that the Spirit, not the law, sanctifies us? You can read Romans 8:3-4 to help. How does this sanctification set us free?
DO: Reflect on your relationship with God. Are you walking or balking? Carefully consider this idea: “Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me— sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me” (Oswald Chambers).